Every day memories

We tend to wait for special days, holidays, family celebrations to pull out the fancy stuff, the expensive things. Sometimes there may be a feeling, niggling in the back of our mind, that maybe whatever we are doing just isn’t “special” enough to celebrate with the good stuff, would our mothers or grandmothers approve? So we resort to our everyday basics, saving the good dishes/linens/crystal for the truly special times. A better suited time.

But too often, a better time only happens once in a blue moon, or sometimes not at all. This is not a post about “life is too short”, not really. But it is something to consider, to remind ourselves, and something that I’ve been leaving myself open to recently.

According to various studies – and my therapist – there are about four or five highly stressful experiences in life that are common to most people:

  • marriage, divorce, death, buying a house and losing your job.

I’ve covered a few of those over the past year. A couple were even at the same time!

2016 was not my friend.

But now that I’ve come out on the other side of it all, my world has come into sharper focus. Colors are brighter, smells are stronger, the whole world is more vibrant and pulsating with possibility. I feel lighter, happier, full of appreciation. Fully aware.

I feel as if I’ve been reborn some days, as cliche as that sounds.

I appreciate so many things, everyday things, so much more now. I feel comfortable in my own skin once again, and it’s been a very long time since I could honestly say that. And this new attitude, or awareness, has led me to see my life and how I live it in a whole new light. I’ve started to let go of a lot of the usual expectations and instead have  decided to let the tide take me where it wants. It’s not giving up the fight so much as it is just not fighting the magnetic pull any longer. Following my heart, giving myself permission to not ask for permission, being open to more. Finding the joy.

Listening to my soul.

So, with this new enlightenment, I’ve drifted away from conventional ideas of only celebrating when it’s the “right time”. Everyday is the right time if you reframe it in your own mind. It’s your experience, and your chance to make memories any way you like.

After moving into my house, my first ever all-my-own house, I was putting away the dishes, glassware, the pots and pans, and I noticed how much I love my china. I kept it for this very reason, after considering the idea to give it away or even leaving it behind, fearing that bringing it into my new home would only be an ugly reminder of a twenty year mistake, but for some reason I just couldn’t let it go.

I chose the pattern twenty years ago because it spoke to me, it gave me a warm feeling deep inside, and twenty years later it still does. Oddly, it didn’t remind me of our wedding, or the broken promises and disappointments that I’ve encountered over that time, instead it reminded me of family dinners and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sitting at a big table with a group of happy, smiling people, that I love with my whole heart, laughing and enjoying each other. Special days. Days filled with love and joy and thanks.

And then a thought occurred to me, why should’t I feel that way every day?

Why do we have to wait until November or December, or a birthday or a graduation, to feel that warmth inside and appreciate the closeness that creates happy memories? Everyday that you gather around a table with your dearest loved ones, and maybe even a friend or two, is a special day. If you’re honest with yourself, you never know how many of these you will get over the course of your lifetime, why not appreciate them all?

So, instead of putting the fine china away in a cabinet somewhere “safe” to be retrieved for a special occasion, I put the entire set in my kitchen where my everyday dishes “should” go. My kids questioned my placement, almost panicked, asking what we would eat dinner off of on Tuesday night without “regular” dishes.

And then I unpacked the crystal and did the same thing.

I will no longer drink wine out of the “everyday” wine glasses, much as I love them too, only saving my crystal for a special occasion or “company”. Instead I will celebrate every sip of cheap red wine in my beautiful crystal glasses and feel special each time.

I will pour wine (maybe a better grade if you’re lucky that day) into the same glasses for my friends and family, and serve them my famous meatballs on the same fine china when they come to visit, too. Appreciating the moment, the shared experience, without worry about chipped dishes or broken glasses stressing me out, but instead relishing the happy memories being made out of our every day life.

I would love to know that when I die, while my children are cleaning out my house, they will come across the china and crystal and any other “special” things I’ve acquired along the way, and be able to say “remember how we ate off of this china every day in mom’s house while we were growing up? Just sitting at our wooden barn door table in the kitchen, eating spaghetti or meatloaf, and drinking wine or milk or whatever, but we ate it off of the china and drank out of our crystal glasses…on a Wednesday!” I want them to treasure those china plates and crystal glasses for the shared warmth of memories that have been etched into them. I want them to have everyday memories of us as a happy, loving family.

Happy memories without a special date attached. Happy just because. Every day memories of living our lives fully, and connected. Sharing love and laughter.

Just every day memories that make us special to each other.

 

 

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Waves

It all comes in waves. Sometimes quiet ripples, barely noticeable, the sun still shining even if there may be a cloud or two. Other times, it comes crashing over you, knocking you off of your feet in surprise, leaving you gasping for air while the water consumes you. The sun is nowhere to be seen because you can’t even keep your head above the water to see it.

That’s post-divorce. The early days. At least, I hope it’s only in the early days.

The beginning of this was more than difficult, it was numbing and exhausting. I felt heavy and tired all of the time, my mind constantly foggy and distant. I missed things, forgot people and places, appointments slipped by me. In the middle of it all, it felt as if this process would last forever, and we would be eternally entwined. No escape, a never-ending battle, tied to each other against our will. Tangled. The water was deep, thick and slow moving. I was swimming fully clothed, seaweed grabbing around my ankles, struggling to keep my head above water, as it was pulling me under each day.

During this time, I apologized a lot. To everyone. I cried even more.

Then, it was almost over, the finish line in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel finally growing brighter. Life was moving forward again. I could remember names, faces, appointments once more. I was making plans, looking forward, making a new life plan. Excited almost, feeling positive that it would all be worth the stress and agony in the end. The water was growing warmer, the waves were rippling around me but not threatening to pull me out past the breakers. I could tread water more easily, only tiring sometimes. But I felt confident that I could, and would, make it back to shore to plant my feet firmly on the ground.

During this time, I bought a house and began to plan to move and start fresh, and happy. I believed that we could get along and work towards having a mutually respectful relationship. I still didn’t like him, but I didn’t hate him either. I wanted to believe that I was over the hurt enough, that I was a grown up and could behave like one. What purpose does it serve to stay hurt and angry?

I’m a realist, level headed, at least that’s what I believed.

Now it’s over, at least the negotiations and battle to divide our marital assets is over. But it’s not completely over. No, a new wave has come crashing down around me, around us, this time sucking my children out to sea along with it. I am trying so hard to hold onto them, to convince them that I can keep them safe, but the wave is too big and too forceful. It has no conscience, it cares for no one. Why? Because there are new waves to make the big wave stronger and more powerful. Waves that give it more force, more momentum, pushing it towards us. Supporting it in the background.

I was almost out of our shared home, only a few weeks away from escape and removed from the drama that has been my life (our life) for over a year, when I heard that there was someone else. Not from him at first, no he’s not that honest or forthcoming with me, or himself. No, I had to hear it further down the line. The six degrees of separation, a friend of a friend of a friend. Our world is much too small.

It’s someone he worked with, but he doesn’t work with her any longer (does that help?) No, he didn’t start this while we were married, only after we were truly separated. And I’m supposed to believe him, now after all of the ugly things he said about me and did to me and our kids during our divorce. Over a year of ugliness and disconnect. And yes, that’s what he’s been putting his energy into for the last year, finding a replacement. Filling the vacancy. All at the cost of his children. That’s why he’s only had six hours a weekend to give of himself to them, he had to “move on with his life”.

He’s not a cheater, at least not in his mind. That’s not the image he’s willing to live with, to have people associate him with, he’s a standup guy. He’s a hard working, family man. And maybe it didn’t truly “begin” during our marriage, maybe he didn’t sleep with her until we were officially separated, but why should I believe him now? Was she the distant shore that he felt pulled to enough to give up his family? Sunny, light, full of fun – a vacation from his real life and his real problems, someone who only sees the relaxed, good side of him that only comes out on a vacation. Someone who gets the “fun guy” while the rest of us get the “real guy”, the one screaming red faced and stomping around our house. Was he always reading the brochures, dreaming about his perfect life with someone else, for months?

Is he lying to me or to himself? Does he even know what the truth is, will he allow himself to see it? I’m guessing he won’t.

There is no boat in sight, the shore is too far, there is no escape. He has left us adrift. No life jackets. We must tread water the best we can, and hold onto each other, until we are strong enough to swim to safety. Some days, I don’t know if we are strong enough, if I am strong enough to protect them. Some days it takes all of the strength I have just to tread water and keep breathing, waiting for the next wave to hit.

 

On a happier note…

During times of struggle, times of happiness, and times of change we often hear a song that just “gets it”. As if it was written with you in mind. It would make a great theme song to your life story, right?

Well, I’ve been keeping track of these songs while going through this ugly separation and divorce process. Seriously, making  a list. Someday soon I plan to add it as a playlist on my phone, but until then, I thought I’d share it just to look for the humor or up beat in this disjointed dance I’ve been moving to.

  • Same Old Love, Selena Gomez
  • Love Yourself, Justin Bieber
  • Just Like Fire, Pink
  • Blow Me, Pink
  • Roar, Katy Perry
  • Send My Love, Adele
  • Vice, Miranda Lambert
  • It’s Different for Girls, Elle King and Dirks Bentley
  • Just Breakup with Him, Old Dominion
  • Somewhere on a Beach, Dirks Bentley
  • Someone that You Used to Know, Gotea
  • Blue Ain’t Your Color, Keith Urban
  • Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
  • Sit Still and Look Pretty, Daya
  • Mean, Taylor Swift
  • (Take Away this) Ball and Chain, Social Distortion
  • Better Man, Little Big Town

Yeah, it’s a long list, but there are twelve months in a year and I was going through a rediscovery of country music at the time (can you tell?) so it’s a little mix of everything.

Some of the songs are when I felt down, jilted, used and tossed away. Others are on those days that I felt that I had finally made it over the last big hurdle, feeling stronger and ready to walk off into the sunset with a smile…and when that was usually wrong, I went back to the first group.

I’ve belted out some of these while driving alone, and with my kids. I’ve sobbed to a few – definitely alone in my car. But it’s the soundtrack to my life in 2016.

I’m hoping that 2017 has a much better selection for me to choose from, songs with hope and happiness and promise of a big, wonderful future. Verses about moving on.

I did hear Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” at the car wash the other day, followed by Carly Simon’s “You’re so Vain”.

I think I’m making a new list for 2017 already 🙂

Officially official

Our divorce is officially final, our court date was scheduled right before Christmas (it came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags!) the gift that keeps on giving.

Who could ask for more?

Standing before a judge, seated high in his chair behind a big desk, in a small courtroom with what appeared to be pews behind us – I know that they weren’t, but it still had somewhat of a church quality about the whole thing – we were now declaring that our marriage was officially over. We were asking permission to get divorced.

Permission.

The last time we stood before someone in a robe on an elevated altar, and made a promise, was the day we were married over twenty years ago. A declaration witnessed by our family and friends, sitting in pews. I couldn’t help but notice the comparison, the irony of it all.

My soon to be ex-husband stood on the other side of our two lawyers, staring stoically toward the bench, but with an emotional look on his face. Eyes tearing up, a look of fighting back emotions, trying not to cry?

Not me.

I answered the questions with a firm voice, head held high, confident. This was not the time to replay the happiest moments of our past lives together, in a slow motion Kodak commercial. This was not the time to mourn the severing of our bond, to express regret. That time had passed, the moment was gone. It was officially too late.

We walked out separately from the courtroom, my ex took a seat in the lobby area. I said my goodbyes to my attorney, thanked her, turned on my heel and left. I didn’t cross over to say goodbye to him, or exchange a look to connect. I felt a twinge, an almost magnetic pull towards him out of habit, but I ignored it. Nobody gave me the rule book, or the “etiquette of exiting divorce proceedings”, beforehand.

Should we shake hands? Hug? Such an awkward moment.

Oddly, it felt good to walk out of the courthouse that day. I felt lighter. Happier. The sun was shining brighter, the world came back into focus. I could breathe. Suddenly, there was promise of better days. A sense of freedom. Relief. Is this how it’s supposed to feel?

Probably not.

As I drove away, I turned the radio up and smiled, heading down the road to my new life. An open road on all sides. It was mine now, completely mine.

 

Precious time

I’ve been going through a lot over the past year since I began this painful journey towards divorce. Many emotional, mental, even physical challenges have come up and put me to the test. But, I have kept my head down, eyes on the finish line gritting my teeth, pushing forward, for most of it. Focused. Determined.

And while it was the only way I could get through it at the time, my method for dealing with an upheaval of my life, I realize now that I’ve missed so much along the way. I’ve let things fall by the wayside, redirected my attention and energy away from “less important” tasks and responsibilities so I can direct all of my energy towards this process.  I’ve put more than a few things on the back burner, trusting that I can pick them up where I left off and hoping that nobody will really notice. They won’t notice that I’m not paying close attention to life’s events and deadlines, I’m not even completely engaged sometimes, and they won’t remember that I checked out a bit and let it slip through my fingers.

I’ve been skimming the headlines of my life basically, using my previous Evelyn Wood speed reading training to get me through another day, week or month. Conserving my energy for the real battles. Promising myself that I will make it up in the end.

I will be a better friend, mother, family member, volunteer. When this is all over.

But yesterday, I had a reality check. I’ve had small ones lately, needling me to get my attention, now that I can see the light of day again. I’ve come back to my “normal” life, blinking in the clear, bright sunlight like a coma patient finally waking up and asking “what year is this?” So many things have changed around me, people have shifted, in ways that I hadn’t noticed until just this week.

An older friend of mine, in his late 70’s, had a heart attack the other night and is in the hospital now. It happened as he was waking up one morning, lucky for him. The doctor said had he not woken up at that time he probably never would have.

We have been promising each other that we would go out for an authentic taco dinner, with our families, since summer camp this year. We still haven’t gone.

Another good friend of mine, in his mid 50’s, was diagnosed with stage four cancer, over the holiday break. He’s an active, funny guy with a twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh. He’s a good ole boy, driving his pickup truck and listening to country music but able to rebuild or reprogram your computer in a heartbeat. He’s been a sanity saver, a shoulder to cry on, a clown to make me laugh many times during this tough time in my life. He helped my son work on his classic car to get it ready for my brother’s wedding, to the point that he would come help anytime my son called with a question or problem – even at ten at night, in his pajamas! We bought a bottle of good vodka (his drink of choice) and have had a thank you note waiting for him since mid-October, but my son wanted to take him for a ride in the car before officially thanking him with these gifts. But the car keeps breaking down, ending up in the shop, and hasn’t seen the road for more than a day at a time so far. The ride hasn’t happened. The bottle is still sitting on my counter.

When I heard about both of my friends yesterday, yes I found out about both at the same time which was more than overwhelming, I hung up the phone and cried. Cried from the deepest depths of my heart. I hurt for them, and I hurt for myself. I hurt for the activities and the people that I have put off until “this is over”. I cried for the guilt of checking out in other areas of my life to make things easier in this area. I cried for the dates not kept, the promises not met. How many more are there? How much have I missed? Who else have I lost?

Am I too late?

I woke up today with a new sense of time, a new appreciation for my relationships, a renewed sense of purpose for my involvement in my community, my friends, my human connections and how precious it all is. And how much we still need all of it even in our darkest moment. I wish that I could have balanced it all better, that I could have compartmentalized it and dealt with it all in a more ideal way. But I did the best I could.

We always tell each other to live life to the fullest! Live each day as if it is your last!

I’m telling you, don’t just talk about it, do it. Make the plans, share that bottle of wine, go to dinner, make that call, connect! Connect now to the people you love to have in your life, and not later, connect now. Not “when this is over”. Not “next time I see him”. This may be the only time, and there may never be an end to your trouble or to your challenges.

It’s all too precious, too fragile, and you never know how much time there is for anyone.

 

 

 

There is no timeout in divorce

I have been trying to keep moving forward with a positive outlook.

This whole divorce thing can be a positive, right? A new beginning, a new home that will be completely mine, new possibilities for the future. And let’s not forget, possibly a new love relationship (as if that is a train I am anxious to jump on after this!)

But to get to that place, you need to maneuver around a mine field of emotions, experiences and surprises. Yes, surprises, because there is always something that you weren’t really expecting to happen, or to be said. Something that comes at you like a brick at your head, or a punch in the stomach.

Something that will take the wind right out of you, leaving you dazed and hurt.

I’ve had my fair share of that scenario over the last six months. Just when I think I can do this with a good attitude, I can be amicable and patient, I can rise above the pain and disappointment…it happens again.

And when it happened too often, in too little time, I began to unravel. I truly thought I was going to lose my mind, or collapse under all of the pressure. And it’s not just from going through a divorce, no it’s not that simple. The rest of your life has to continue, the other people in your life that count on you (your kids, your family, your friends) still need you to function and perform. They still need you to not only show up, but make the reservations and take care of the details like you’ve always done.

That part of life doesn’t stop, doesn’t pause, doesn’t just wait until you can handle it all again. You don’t get to take a timeout. You must handle it all. Now.

Some days, I could feel my brain expanding and pushing against the sides of my head, a feeling that I would burst at any moment. My skin would tingle and the air was too thin to breathe. I felt cornered. Trapped. And with no escape route in sight.

Sometimes, I just wanted to run and keep on running until I couldn’t think about any of it anymore. I wanted to run to a safe place, a place that I could stop thinking. A place that I could stop being me, the me that was there for everyone and anyone.

I wanted to disappear.

But I can’t disappear, and I can’t make it all stop or even pause sometimes. Life keeps happening. Even when you think you’ve got enough on your plate, Life hands you another heaping helping to choke down.

No wonder I’ve gained weight.

 

What do I miss?

I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately. It seems that I should have a running list of moments that grip my heart tightly, bringing hot tears to my eyes, as I remember what it “used to be like” and miss it intensely.

Memories viewed through a misty filter, and in slow motion, with heartbreaking music.

I should have days that I walk through my life like a spectator, lost and broken, asking “where is he?” only to realize that he’s gone. An emptiness, a gaping hole, a space that nothing, and no one, can fill.

The song ” One less bell” plays in the back of my brain some days. Sometimes I find myself humming it. Or singing a couple of bars…”I should be happy, but all I do is cryyyyyyyy” I can’t hit the notes quite the same as she can, but I still put my heart into it. And while I sing along I don’t feel that depth of despair, that sense of emptiness. I almost laugh at the absurdity of the lyrics.

It all feels odd, the flatness of it all. The “shoulds” that go undone. The expectations not being met. I feel like I should keep it to myself because, obviously, I’m not doing it right.

I should be angry. (I am sometimes, just not always or as much as I expected)

I should be devastated. (I was for a short while, I guess. But the newness has worn off)

I should be sad, and lonely. (sometimes I am sad, not about him really, but never lonely)

I should be…but most days, I’m not.

Maybe it’s my meds…

What don’t I miss? That’s a better question these days. There are things that crop up without any intention, moments that I stop and think “wow, this isn’t so bad” or “finally, I can just do what I want, without worry or judgement, without seeking permission”. When I am not dwelling on the negative possibilities that can affect my future and my children, I feel pretty good and pretty positive to be honest.

I feel released, unleashed, set free!

I don’t miss having him sleeping next to me, mouth agape flat on his back, snoring.

I don’t miss that one. lone. cereal bowl. and spoon left in the sink DAILY, with two (yes, TWO!) dishwashers flanking either side of our kitchen sink.

I don’t miss that question that came at either 6:30am or 10pm:

“Do you have any of my t-shirts in the clean laundry?”

This is the main staple of his daily attire, but for some reason he would never notice – or inform me – when he took the last one out of the dresser drawer. I guess I was supposed to be on “t-shirt watch” to refill his dresser like a personal valet.

I don’t miss watching him lay on the couch on the weekends, all day long, watching whatever sport he could find to avoid doing anything with his wife and family.

I don’t miss cooking a meal only to find out that he ate something similar for lunch, so he’ll just eat cereal (followed by above referred to cereal bowl and spoon in the sink)

I don’t miss the dismissive way he ignored me while I was talking, checking email as if his life depended upon it. Or the way he would walk out of the room while I was still talking.

I don’t miss having someone around me that makes it an almost daily practice to bring attention to any and all of my faults or mistakes, and enjoys it more when other people witness it.

I don’t miss being treated like an employee in my own life, expected to meet someone else’s expectations and fulfill  their needs, without any return or appreciation.

These are the things that I need to remind myself of when I want to curl up, cry and give up. These are the moments, the reminders, that this will all work out and I will be better for it. I will be happy again.

And while sometimes I am scared, I am sad, and I am overwhelmed I always know that I would never want to go back to the way it was. Not even for a minute.

Because now I am free to just be me, the way I want to be.